The Grammarphobia Blog

Ugly and/or unnecessary

Q: I dislike the term “and/or” and feel it is usually unnecessary. A sign on a bus in my town says, “Please save these seats for riders who are elderly or disabled.” Nobody is going to stop someone from sitting there if that person is both elderly and disabled. So my vote is to get rid of the excess word and the slash. In the rare case when “and/or” would be helpful, another term can be used.

A: I agree with you about “and/or.” In my book Woe Is I, I refer to it as an “ugly wrinkle.” There’s usually a better way, even if it means an extra word or two. Of the following two sentences, for example, I’d go with No. 2.

(1) “Would you like mustard and/or relish on your hot dog?”

(2) “Would you like mustard, relish, or both on your hot dog?”

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